Swimming the Length of Tahoe: Life Lessons Learned

At approximately 8:30pm on July 25th, I jumped into Lake Tahoe to attempt to swim the length which is a total of 21 miles starting at Camp Richardson and ending in Incline Village. I swam through the night, to sunrise, into the day AND I actually completed it. Going into the swim I felt very confident being ready both physically and mentally. My training leading up to the swim was on point and had completed my final 4 hour swim on a Saturday about 2.5 weeks prior, followed by an 8 hour swim on Sunday. I had relatively little soreness after my biggest training swim as I had already done several 5-6 hour swims. I thought I should be able to finish in less than 13 hours but I did not quite accomplish that. Last summer I completed the Vikingsholm Swim on July 15th which was a 10.5 mile swim in just over 6 hours. I also completed the True Width on August 3rd in 6 hours and 29 minutes with Lake Tahoe Open Water Swimming Association and my pilots Bryan and Sylvia of  Pacific Open Water Swim Co.. The completion of swimming the length of Tahoe was also the completion of the Tahoe Triple Crown! And I am beyond thrilled with that accomplishment. This event is a solo event and it is just me swimming across the lake with my pilots, an observer and crew. I had already swum with the pilots, Sylvia and Bryan on countless occasions so they know me and my swimming well. My observer was someone who I swim with from South End Rowing Club, Brad. And my husband, Matt helped to crew in addition to support from the pilots. They throw me food over the side of the boat like I am a dolphin. My feeds are largely liquid with water, Carbo Pro and Ucan Hydrate which I “feed” on every 30 minutes from a cycling bottle attached to a rope. You cannot touch the boat at any point during the swim. If you do the swim is over so I just tread water while I eat/drink my feed in 30 seconds or less. I also supplement with Gu gels. Swimmers are only allowed a swimsuit, goggles, cap, ear plugs and no swim aids. The pilots and observer can call the swim at any time due to safety of the swimmer or support crew.

I learned a tremendous amount on this swim. Similar to my old triathlon days, you learn a lot when you ramp up from 70.3 (half ironman) to 140.6 (full ironman). And that was very similar for going from 10-12 miles swims to 21 miles. Last summer I tested two theories. For the first swim, I drove up the night before arriving at 6pm and jumped the next morning around 5am. For the true width, I went up 5 days in advance to acclimate to the altitude. Lake Tahoe is at 6000 feet and I have never done great with altitude. What I have heard from many other people who race at altitude is that you either get up there right before so you are not yet impacted by the altitude (you have about 24 hours). Alternatively, you should get up there at least 5 day (many would argue more) in advance of the event to acclimate. Since I felt like both tactics worked equally well, I decided to drive up the night of the 21 mile swim arriving at 6pm. I am not the best sleeper so getting really restful sleep in my own bed leading up to the swim seemed like the winning choice.

Life Lesson One:

What worked for acclimation for a 10-12 miles swim was not enough for me for the 21 mile swim. The altitude hit me hard around hours 10-11 and significantly impacted my pace causing me to go from swimming ~ 2 miles an hour to 1 mile an hour the last 3 hours. I would recommend considering arriving a minimum of 5 days early to acclimate for the length swim. My father having been a high altitude climber felt that this was my biggest mistake and felt I should have been up there 1 -2 weeks in advance. I don’t know that there is any right or wrong answer to this question but based on the condition I personally ended the swim in, I think maybe for me that would have been better.

I jump at 8:30pm and I was loving every minute of the swim. The sun was going down and the sky was lighting up for the sunset. I was swimming from feed to feed and time literally just flew by. Minutes turned quickly into hours. I absolutely love swimming at night in the darkness in Lake Tahoe. Time just seems to disappear as I just focus on my stroke and my breath. Many people think about a ton of things while they swim. I tend to go into a very meditative state. In the nighttime hours, I have a few lights on my cap and my suit so the boat can see me. The boat has lights on that I just follow. A few times, they gave a holler for me to be a little further from the boat so I obliged. The thing was they were feeding me every 30 minutes my carbo pro and electrolytes. I had my Gu multi serve pouch in my suit which I should have been taking about every two hours. But I was cruising and I was feeling so good. I didn’t want to waste time on that and I did not supplement the Gu. I remember thinking to myself that they must have just finished up the 11 feeds I brought prepped as the feeds they mixed tasted ever so slightly different. So that would have put me at around 5 and half hours of swimming. And I had not taken any GU yet! Of course I did not realize this during the swim as I was so focused, having fun and even joking with the crew on the feeds. One feed they joked that I had gotten faster and I was “yup, been practicing”. Post swim we definitely discussed that I had created a calorie deficit leading to the slowness in the last few hours. We tried to play catch up but it was probably just too late.











Life Lesson Two:

I should not own any part of my own feeds. Feed from the boat on the right schedule so you don’t create a calorie deficit which could have cost me finishing the swim and my health. Ultimately it was likely a combination of altitude and messing up on my feeds that caused the significant slowdown in the last few hours of the swim.

So I am cruising and the crew definitely seems excited about my pace. I am excited because up through what I believe was 10-11 hours I felt amazing. I had some minor shoulder pains during my training swims back in  May/ June but after having my stroke looked at, some phenomenal coaching from Ahelee Sue Osborn and some drills, I did not have any major arm or shoulder pain during the swim or much soreness after. In fact, when I felt anything, I went back to everything Ahelee told me. If you feel pain, get it looked at sooner rather than later. If not, it could derail your training. Another part of my training which also was great was my core training. Lake water is less buoyant than swimming in the ocean. After hours of swimming in Lake Tahoe last year I noticed my lower back started to ache, likely because of the less buoyant water. Having a strong core is absolutely critical for swimming, your back and your kick. This year I doubled my core workouts adding in longer planks, a variety of core exercises and increased the frequency of those in my weekly routine. All that core work resulted in absolutely no back pains throughout the entire swim and I got less leg cramps. After I finished I came to find out that at one point I was on pace to complete the swim in about 12 hours.

And then everything fell apart. I am not exactly sure when and how quickly it fell apart but I know my pace started to drop. I had some cramps and they became more pervasive. Cramps tend to be more prevalent at altitude so I did increase my electrolytes which did keep them at bay longer than expected. I had some mild cramps come on around hour 9 (I think). Eventually, I couldn’t stick to freestyle and started to supplement with breast stroke. They were saying 25 strokes of free and then 25 stokes of breast. Then it was 20, 15, 10 strokes of each as things continued to unravel. Then I was rolling onto my back to catch my breath.  Every time I rolled on to my back, Bryan yelled that if I was not swimming he was going to pull me. And every time I was like hell NO and rolled over and kept swimming. I was so close to the beach but it was still also so far away. And somehow I pushed through to the get to the beach and exit the water. After that everything is pretty much a blur. I swam back to the boat and they pulled my dead weight back on the boat as I had no strength to do so myself.




Once on the boat, they were watching me intently. I slept all the way back to Camp Richardson on the boat. I had a nagging cough which I was complaining about when we arrived at Camp Richardson. The pilots (Sylvia and Bryan) were watching the cough to see if it was “productive cough” as that is a red flag indicating swimmer induced pulmonary edema (SIPE). They outlined the signs of SIPE and what to watch for. I walked down the dock with the help of Matt and Brad and sat on a bench with Brad while Matt got everything off the boat.

As Matt & I were both exhausted, we headed directly to the hotel arriving around 2pm and thankfully we got an early check in. I showered to get all the zinc off with Matt’s help. I was coughing and I thought the phlegm was now tinged pink. As soon as I went to lie in bed, I immediately heard the crackle in my lungs which I knew was not a good noise. Within minutes we were on our way to an urgent care which was 5 minutes from the hotel. I am so thankful for what Bryan and Sylvia outlined and what I learned about Swimmer Induced Pulmonary Edema (SIPE) at Infinity’s Hit the Wall Training Camp. They had talked about the “crackle” so I knew this was bad and got help right away. Urgent care ushered me back almost immediately. I was in an ambulance to the hospital on oxygen and IV within 10 minutes. Upon arrival to the hospital emergency room, we had a team working on me. They took blood, x-rays, got me on fluids, on oxygen and gave me steroids along with other treatments. It was all happening so fast. I had never been in a hospital before and thankful for the amazing team at Barton Health in South Lake Tahoe! The doctor came in and said “well we have one really sick girl here”. And then the doctor started to talk about a helicopter or ambulance to Reno. I was terrified. I looked at Matt and said “call my Dad”. I was diagnosed with Swimmer Enduced Pulmonary Edema and Rhabdo which require opposite treatments. I think the altitude lead to the pulmonary edema and the calorie deficit led to the Rhabdo, thus the critical lessons learned. These are just my hypotheses as swimmer induced pulmonary edema has little research. There is also altitude induced pulmonary edema and I think that there is potentially more than one culprit in this situation. Rhabdo is when you are breaking down your muscle fibers which release into your bloodstream. Those fibers turn into protein that then are processed by your kidneys. This can lead to serious complications such as kidney failure. The good news is that my Rhabdo was relatively mild and likely something I encountered at the end of my ironman events. The key signs are muscle pain in the shoulders, thighs, or lower back; muscle weakness or trouble moving arms and legs; and dark red or brown urine or decreased urination. Keep in mind that half of people with the condition may have no muscle-related symptoms. Treatment is typically IV fluids if not a severe case.

Luckily within 10-15 minutes my vitals improved which came as a welcome surprise to the doctor. Thankfully the doctor let us know that they felt confident they could now treat me in their own ICU department. I was rolled up to ICU and was in the hospital for about 24 hours in total.




Many people have asked if I should have been pulled. I know it was a topic of conversation on the boat. And I firmly believe there is no right or wrong answer to this question. I honestly believe that the damage was done. If they had pulled me a mile off shore, I would have been devastated, not completed my swim, the Tahoe Triple Crown and very well may have still landed in the hospital. So for me, I am really glad I was able to finish. I have also been asked if I knew during the swim what was happening. I definitely had no clue and truly thought it was just exhaustion. And even at the dock waiting to go to the hotel, we just thought it was exhaustion. The lead theory while in the water was that it was the calorie deficit driving my exhaustion. What scares me most is my ability to push myself + my body through things that others may not. Ironman Whistler was similar in that my mental capability to push through challenges is impressive and at the same time frightening. That race had a 25% DNF/ DNS (did not finish/ did not start). That said I am sharing this so others are aware of some things that can happen, so they know the signs and seek help if they see these signs.

For Swimmer induced pulmonary edema, the signs are:

  • Shortness of breath out of proportion with the effort being exerted. For me, I truly thought it was in line with having swam 21 miles
  • Cough, usually distressing and productive with little pink, frothy or bloody phlegm
  • Crackles, rattling or junky feelings deep in the chest

Someone shared a great article that reviewed 45 cases. And the good news is that all cases resolved in 24 to 48 hours. If treated, you will be able to recover. The questions I still have are:

  1. How long until my lungs are fully recovered. I am cleared to swim again but I am not cleared to swim the Catalina Channel which was scheduled September 15th. It was a tough call but the right call to postpone. I have swam up to an hour but I am a bit unclear as to how far I can push it. At almost a month post swim, I am feeling significantly better and will start to swim a bit longer. That past week has felt like a step change in how I feel which is great. I am waiting for my appointment with a Pulmonary specialist which is about a month out as it is now a routine visit
    • Update 10/23/19: At about 3 months after the swim I am feeling 100%. I have completed a few 3 hour swims. I did get confirmation from a doctor that I should allow 3 to 6 months for full recovery and I agree with that statement! Within 1 week I did a 20 minutes swim followed by 40 minutes the following week and ramped up slowly from there.
  2. The other question is regarding my risk of re-occurrence. Now that I have had this episode, am I now more at risk for future swims? Was it the altitude that was more of a factor so if I swim at sea level are my risks less? The article referenced above gave a wide variance of reoccurrence (17% to 75%) which was not super comforting. At 17%, I would absolutely attempt Catalina. At 75%, I would not even consider it.
    • Update 10/23/19: Per one doctor who has been studying SIPE, the re-occurrence rate is estimated at 30%. The doctor also reviewed my file from the hospital and immediately asked what and how much I drank before and during the swim. Since it was an evening swim I hydrated all day. So likely drank 60oz between 1pm and the jump at 8:30pm which by itself seemed normal but coupled with my feeds, it was a lot of fluid. My feeds were about 8 ounces every 1/2 hour. Well that is 16oz per hour or 160oz over 10+ hours and your body cannot process that amount of fluid. Net, the leading theory on the cause was over-hydration. And my electrolytes were dangerously low even though I take approximately 600ml per hour. I will be training going forward with 4-5oz feeds and watch how much I hydrate before hand. The smaller feeds will also allow me to feed much faster so WIN WIN!

For now I am waiting patiently for my answers. The understanding of SIPE is still evolving. In my research, I was able to get a few interesting article that may be worth a read:

Diagnosis of Swimming Induced Pulmonary Edema—A Review

American College of Cardiology: Swimmer-Induced Pulmonary Edema

Sadly I have had to postpone my Catalina Channel this year as I am not cleared to swim by my doctor. More importantly, it was just the right decision and I also think I have put my family through enough worry for one year. Lastly, when I attempt the Catalina channel, I would like to be in the position to succeed. Coming off the Tahoe swim, I would not be in the optimal position to succeed. And it will be there next year!

I really wanted to leverage the Catalina Channel Swim to raise awareness around ocean plastic. That said, I am still launching my crowdwise fundraising page to support 5 Gyres as one of their ambassadors. If you are so inclined, I would appreciate any donation. I did swim 21 miles 😉




Redemption Swims

Nothing like watching ninja warrior to see bad ass people doing unbelievable things and realize self-doubt is the biggest sabotager.

They all have missions, names like “the best day ever” , “Luci Steel”, “Iron Butterfly” and I’m no different. I’m your green swimmer girl, swimming oceans to inspire people to use less plastic and help save our oceans and our planet.

I have been home for one month since attending Infinity’s Hit the Wall Training Camp in Ireland. I was having lots and lots of self doubt after Ireland’s Hit the Wall Swim camp. I attempted a 6 hour swim on the final day and only made it 4.5 hours. In the moment, I was happy with my accomplishment but the next day I was overwhelmingly disappointed in myself. I knew I could have gone the full 6 hours. Full details in my Hit the Wall Camp Blog recap.  I really was handling the cold water just fine but mentally I was not strong and let my brain play games with me. Then there are people like Amy Gubsner, a legend in open water swimming and Padraig of Infinity who told me that I didn’t even know what I was capable of. I knew coming home from Hit the Wall that I wanted to really challenge myself to overcome two things. I absolutely hate swimming in circles. I absolutely cannot wear my watch for swims longer than 2-3 hours. I tend to obsess about how long I have been in the water, how long I have to go, can I make it… So what did I set out to do? Just that! I swam by myself (mostly), in circles with my watch 3 times over the past month for 5-6 hours.

I am so lucky to live in San Francisco and be a member of the most amazing club on earth, The South End Rowing Club. We have an amazing area to swim called Aquatic Park. You can see my 2 mile route below in green (Thank you again to Amy for taking me on this course in the early spring!). I leave the south end rowing club beach and swim clockwise around the cove, to the “flag”, to the “goal posts” to “the Wedding Cake” at the opening and then outside the cove to the end of “creekers” and back along the same route. For me, 5 times = about 5 hours and 6 times = about 6 hours so that is exactly what I set out to do.


Aquatic Park Swim Route in Green

Another hurdle I had to face was a few little muscle pains and issues. I needed to get it addressed and fast. I definitely waited too long but I had my stroke looked at by my friend, Ahelee who is a gifted coach. Unfortunately, lots of my old bad habits had weaved their way back so back to the pool I go to work on my stroke to prevent injury. That coupled with massage, lots of stretching and rolling, I am back in a pretty good place. Lesson here is listen to your body and address issues as soon as possible. If I had waited much longer, it may have taken me out of my big events that I am working so hard towards. I will be swimming the length of Tahoe on July 26th and then Catalina in September.

4 weeks ago I headed out for my first 5 hour swim by myself at 6am. I had a little Mega Chill float (loaned to me by Irish POD buddy Eric) to hold my feeds which I swam out and attached to a buoy off the docks. Coming back to the beach would surely mean failure.  I feed at 45 minutes and then about every 30 minutes from then on. I would feed at the buoy and carry a soft flask to feed at the turn around point. My feeds are very basic, with just 8 oz of water, Carbo Pro and Ucan Hydrate. I supplement some Gu as well. I gave up caffeine this month after attending a marathon swimming panel. One of the recommendations was to use caffeine as a drug so I cut it out of your life entirely and only use it later in swims to give me a nice pick me up. Taking a little caffeine GU at hour 4 was amazing! That last hour was rough and my mantra to get me through that last hour was “ninja warrior”! With my feed buoy just being off the beach it was super hard to rally for that last lap. My head was saying 4 hours is good. You can just go in to the beach. It’s right there. I was so proud I pushed those thoughts out to head out for my final lap. Once I got to the flag, I knew 5 hours was about to be in the books.

South End Rowing Club Beach and my starting point

South End Rowing Club Beach + my start point


Float on the right tied up to a buoy and me heading out on my first solo 5 hour swim in circles with my watch! 


5 Hour Route! Lots of fishermen on the piers that I was avoiding.

The next weekend I took a rest week as I was coming off a cold but the next two weekends would be 6 hour swims. The 3rd weekend of June I did a 6 hour swim followed by a 2 hour swim. The forth weekend I did a very challenging 3 hr San Francisco Bay swim which was a cross current swim with a wee bit of chop! My arms were toast after that swim as I was trying to keep up with a stronger swimmer, Katie who came for training swims from North Carolina. We are both attempting to swim the Catalina channel this summer so it was an absolute pleasure to meet and swim with her. We both joined Pacific Open Water Swim Co. for an epic swim around Alcatraz.

As I started out my 2nd 6 hour swim the next day, my arms felt sore and my body felt tired. I didn’t think I had 6 hours in me. Once I finished lap one, everything had really loosened up and I was feeling pretty good. At the end of my second lap I saw what I hoped were some of my pod mates heading off the beach and it was! I joined them for a swim outside the cove, fighting the flood to fort mason + gas house. It turned out to be a fabulous mix of the B team pod and the Irish Pod so I was absolutely thrilled. A few of the Irish Pod decided to head a bit beyond gas house towards marina green. This was a very welcome change from my circles. And super nice to have some company! Once we got back to the cove, I said goodbye to my pod mates. I had another 2.5 hrs to go and that actually went by pretty quickly. But that last lap! It is just the toughest to rally for the last lap and get going but I did it! Two 6 hour swims in the books and just one more 8 hr swim to go! Swim logs below.



First 6 hour swim which was completely solo the entire time!



6 Hour swim with a Irish POD + B Team POD meet up mid swim! What a pleasant surprise!

When I came in from the beach after my last 6 hour swim, many of my Irish POD + B Team POD buddies were all over the club. I was beyond stoked about what I had just accomplished!!! The newbie swim had just wrapped up. I was greeted warmly by Irish POD mates Vanessa and a bear hug by Colin. Others in the shower helped to get the zinc off my back. Then I came down after the shower and sauna, greeted by other POD mates, Fran and Bobby with just lots of love and food. I am so lucky to have all the support of the South End Rowing Club community. I may have been swimming alone for much of these swims but I certainly never feel alone. I feel lots and lots of love!


Zinc, Zinc + more Zinc. And one Happy Swimmer!


Vanessa, part of the Irish POD + gave me a post swim back massage


Post swim bear hug from Colin who is part of my Catalina Crew

I have one more big weekend of training and then it is tapper time for the length of Tahoe on July 26th!

Year 1 of My Plastic Free Mission

I’m well over a year into my plastic free mission. I continue to try to do more and get upset when I buy items in plastic. But as I reflect back to what I have accomplished in the past year, I am pretty darn proud. It certainly didn’t happen all at once but slowly over the course of the past year I have made significant reductions in my plastic usage and you can too. I would say it is easily a 70-80% reduction which was accomplished on focusing on the top items that produced plastic in our household. If you are looking for where to start see my comprehensive list below and pick one or two to start with. Or maybe this will make you think of something in your household or life that you can tackle and find a plastic free alternative 🙂

Being a road warrior and traveling a ton for work, I started with what I used on the go. I refused plastic water bottles, to go coffee cups, single use utensils and straws. Those items were replaced with reusable options that I carry with me for travel, when I go to the office and generally when I am out and about. Every once in a while I get asked to go for coffee and don’t have my reusable coffee cup with me. In that case, I will ask for the coffee without the plastic lid. When I am traveling and looking for lunch, I look for an option where they offer the lunch on reusable plates and cutlery. It forces me to sit down, eat my lunch and take a moment for myself. My go to place is Panera as they are available in many areas, relatively quick and healthy. To learn more and find some recommendations check out one of my very first blog posts: Plastic Travel Tales

In our house I started with the kitchen since plastic is seemingly everywhere! We cut out the following in this order over the course of the past year:

  1. I cut out flavored carbonated water that was bought at a very high frequency. I would say easily 4 to 5 bottles a week and transitioned seamlessly to the Soda Stream. That’s around 250 plasitc bottles on an annual basis that I no longer use! Bonus we saved a bunch of money!
  2. We also cut out single use Keurig pods and purchased reusable pods. Our household was easily using 14 single use pods a week or 728 a year. Looking back I am embarrassed we used these and thrilled to have made the change.
  3. I started making my own almond milk as often as I could when time permitted. Sometimes I will buy a carton of almond milk do to work travel and time constraints. Luckily in my municipality it can be recycled. To read more about the three items above read my blog Kitchen Plastic Rehab Part 1.
  4. I have made some yogurt and have switched to brands that come in a glass jar vs. buying single use yogurt in plastic. My favorite brand is St. Benoit Cremery which I can find at Rainbow Market.
  5. I have started buying bulk and buy the following items-protein powder, nuts, granola, dried fruit, rice, sugar, salt, tea, almond flour, vinegar, olive oil, coconut oil. chocolate chips. I use reusable cloth/ mesh bags as well as glass jars for my shopping excursions. I really love shopping and seeing how much I can buy that has no packaging. And I look forward to growing the list of items I buy in bulk! If you want to give bulk shopping a shot, you can read more in my blog about Bulk Shopping 101. It is really quite fun. I get excited preparing my shopping list and bringing all my reusable bags and bottles. I feel so accomplished when I can afford plastic entirely on a shopping trip.
  6. I have started shopping at Farmers Markets and back at my local Safeway vs. Trader Joes to buy produce without packaging such as lettuce, other vegetables and fruits.
  7. We now compost in our home. We were worried about the smell but not an issue at all!
  8. We have not used paper towels or napkins in well over 6 months and have converted to cloth towels and napkins. We love Marley’s Monsters  unpaper towels + napkins! For more details read, Ditch your Paper Towels.
  9. When I shop and I have a choice of something that may come in a plastic bottle vs. a glass bottle, I always will choose the glass bottle.
  10. If am shopping and my only option is in a plastic container, I buy the larger size as long as I know I can use it all up before it expires. A great example is feta which I love on my salads. My salads are mostly plastic free with the exception of the feta when used so I consider that a win!
  11. Vitamins have been also slowly switching over from plastic bottles to glass jars where possible. More to come on that shortly!

In the bathroom:

  1. Bottled shampoo and conditioner has been converted to bar soap, bar shampoo and bar conditioner. Read all about it in Ditch the Shampoo Bottle.
  2. Boxes of tissues have been converted to handkerchiefs.
  3. I no longer use cotton rounds to wash my face but use reusable cotton rounds that I wash weekly
  4. For lotion, I will refill the bottle I have at a local store (Rainbow) which offers that option. Somehow I had a years’ worth of lotion but will refill and reuse the existing bottle shortly.
  5. Toothpaste was switched from Colgate to David’s which is in a tin container which can be recycled and dental floss was switched from glide to dental lace which a silk floss in a glass jar with a tin lid that you can refill. Plastic free dental options for your reading pleasure.
  6. Tooth brush was switched to a bamboo tooth brush. I now refuse the toothbrush and dental floss my dentist gives me and use the bamboo while traveling. At home I do use an electric one as I have soft teeth that are very prone to cavities. You should always prioritize health first.
  7. My hair brush was switched from a Revlon plastic brush where the plastic bristles would bend over time. I would replace at least one a year. I switched to Bass, the Green Brush which I found at Rainbow Foods. I have been using it for well over 6 months and can tell it will last me for years to come . Bass Brushes has designed luxury grade brushes for 40 years with an emphasis on natural sustainable materials.


Is there still plastic in our house? Absolutely! We work full time, I travel a bit for work and I have a heavy training schedule for my upcoming marathon swims.  That said, sometimes due to time constraints and convenience, we may not be able to make it over to a farmers market or to a store that has more plastic free options. There were also some items my partner would not give up that came in plastic but after writing this, I think we have come a very long way! It is all about progress not perfection! So don’t beat yourself up if you end up buying a spring mix of lettuce in a plastic container. Think about all the other areas in your life and home where you can make a notable difference! Just keep at it and slowly you will see that your household has significantly less plastic.

If you enjoyed my blog, please use the link to the right to follow me. You will get an email update each time I post anything new. It’s not that often so don’t worry about being inundated with emails. I  would also love to hear from you! How is your plastic free journey going? I hope to have inspired you!

*disclosure: Some links in this blog are affiliate links, meaning I make a little bit of money but at no additional cost to you. I will earn a commission if you click through the link and make a purchase. This will help me to continue to explore and offer up recommendations to reduce your plastic usage.



Swim Camp- Hitting the Wall, Climbing Over and Hitting the Wall Again

First off, I can’t say enough about Infinity’s Hit the Wall Training camp and the team that Jacqueline and Padraig have put together. Their love of open water swimming is infectious! The camp they have put together is an outstanding weekend to really push your limits and have fun while doing it. I can’t recommend the Hit the Wall Camp enough! Below is a recap of most of the events over the weekend.


Sky Park outdoor adventure park

We kick off our adventure with zip lines, climbing walls, repelling and other obstacles. I was on the team for the zip line along with most of my housemates. The zip line was a blast. I have done them before so this was easy and super fun. Several of my housemates hadn’t done it before and super proud for them to give it a go! The goal of the adventure park was to challenge yourself to attempt something outside your comfort zone or that scares you and was a great prelude to the weekend ahead.

Ireland adventure park

Glow Night Swim at Camlough Lake

After the Adventure Park we shortly departed for our 1st of many swims for the 4 day weekend. We headed out to Camlough Lake for a looped swim. When we signed up we had to choose whether we wanted the yellow “Hit the Wall” swim cap. By choosing the yellow cap, that meant you would be pushed a bit more to really hit your limit. I chose the yellow cap which meant that for the lake swim, I would swim for 90 minutes along with all my other fellow yellow caps. A little secret is that I hate circle courses so I knew this would wear on me a bit. I like point to point or one big circle. Each time you get to the start point for your next lap, my little mind says, “Well you could get out now?” Luckily this was night one and I was feeling good and ready to go. I think after the 3rd lap I lost count, Thank God! It was even hard to read in my strava after but I think it was 5 laps over 90 minutes in water that was about 53 degrees. All of these swims for me are just with a bathing suit, goggles, cap and ear plugs as those are the Marathon Swimming guidelines. I felt pretty good in the water and after but there is always this period after with the after drop where you get really cold, really fast. It’s super important to get out of the wet bathing suit as quickly as possible and into dry clothes so you can warm back up. Having a nice bottle of warm liquid is also super helpful along with wool socks, beanie, gloves and a warm swim parka.


Morning Glory Swim

Sadly I missed this. After the night swim, getting home and showering, I got to bed around 1:30am so slept in. I am sure this swim was delightful.

Battle of Carlingford Lough Race

That afternoon we had the Carlingford Battle where we swam 7k from Carlingford to Omeath which I was really looking forward to. I mean whats not to love about a point to point swim, right? This swim hugged the shoreline and we swam buoy to buoy. We were greeted with some challenging conditions with lots of wind and chop so heard times were much slower this year from those who had done it in the past. This swim was warmer than the lake swim and I think the water temp was closer to 55 degrees and felt good throughout the swim. This swim was about 8700 yards per my garmin and took me about 2 hours 38 minutes. I can typically carry my own feeds for swims up to 3 hours so I had a Saloman soft flask bottle for my water and electrolytes. Then I use a Gu refillable flask and I can hold both of these in my suit. Another great flask option is the Hydrapak Stow which is a little bigger than the Saloman flask.


Sunday Morning Cure Swim

Nothing like nice swim the next day to stretch out the arms. We jumped in around 7am and were to swim for about 2 hours. Once again we were faced with a tight circle swim due to challenging weather conditions. We had another very windy day with a wee bit of chop. And as Amy said “We had 4 seasons in one hour.” Working through some shoulder issues, the challenge of swimming in chop puts a bit more strain on my shoulders. And I was thinking about my long swim the next day and letting my wee little brain play wee little games. I swam two loops for about an hour 22 minutes with the water temp probably closer to 53 degrees this day.

Hit the Wall Yoga

YOGA! THANK YOU YOGA!  I am so glad I went to the yoga class with Shirli. She provided a great class which focused on stretching and opening up areas like shoulders, neck and hip flexors.  I felt so much better after the class.

Sunday Night- Hit the Wall Ice n’ Dice

When we showed up for the Ice n’ Dice, we had to decided what we wanted to swim the next day. The options were 4 hrs, 6 hrs or 10 hrs. I was going to sign up for 4 hours. But I overheard the lady chatting with the guy in front of me who was wavering between 4 and 6 hours. She said worst case you don’t go all the way to 6 hours and that should not be viewed as a failure. I am pretty sure he signed up for the 6 hour swim. I did as well.

Then it was time to get ready for the Ice n’ Dice.  I was really dreading this event. We would get in and swim one lap which I think was about 1/2 mile. Then upon exiting you would sit in an ice bath for 40 or so seconds. There were some popsicles, some seaweed and lots and lots of ice. Oddly enough, I really enjoyed this event. After exiting the ice bath and jumping back into the ocean, the water felt so nice and dare I say warm! It was a nice perspective change in that there is always something colder. I swam another lap and did another ice bath, swam another lap and passed on the ice bath. I really should have gone for one more ice dip. I actually think it help my shoulders too! Alas I had my “6 hour” swim on my mind and wanted to be fresh for the next morning.

Ireland ice bath 1

Affectionately known as my evil stink eye per my partner

Ireland Ice Bath 2

The first Popsicle I didn’t love

Ireland Ice bath 3

This is when they pushed my shoulders down into the ice bath


Monday Hit the Wall Beyond the limits

I was nervous going into the long swim Monday, not really feeling confident that I could handle 6 hours in 54-55 degree water. And we had not had the most favorable conditions over the weekend and Monday was no different. Our 10 hour crew was already in the water which included two housemates, Amy Gubsner and Ranie Pearce. Amy had already done a significant swim on Friday attempting the Dal Riata Channel. How she could pull out another 10 hour swim was just mind boggling. Ranie is preparing for her North Channel attempt so this swim is her qualifier swim and I know she is nervous. I am just in awe of these two accomplished swimmers! I figured we would see them out there at some point. They both accomplished their goal of completing their 10 hour swims! Absolute rock stars!!! I joined the 6 hr group which included Alice Ma from South End Rowing Club who is just the most positive person I know. We are ready to go on the beach and we set out on our swim. Shortly into the swim I ran aground on a sand bar which I gently climbed over and returned to swimming.  Going into the swim I know we are going to be looping a bit which as noted, I struggle with. I also am wearing my watch which I typically don’t wear for any swims over 3 hours but that only works if someone else if feeding me on a predetermined schedule. Ideally I like to feed 45 minutes and then every 30 minutes thereafter. My feeds are just water, carbo pro and electrolytes in a half full water bottle. I supplement with Gu that I like to carry with me. Wearing a watch and knowing how long I have been in the water and if I fed on schedule can be my downfall. I was obsessing over the time and my feeds which taught me that I need to be more flexible. At about two hours I had two feeds off our designated boat. I had some Gu to supplement but by this point my mind had gotten the best of me and I was hitting my wall. I saw Jacqueline and Padraig’s boat and yelled that I wanted to get out and for the first time ever on a swim I was crying in the water. This has never happened to me even on much longer swims. Jacqueline asked why I wanted to get out and why I was crying. I was like I just need to get out. Then she pressed again and I answered “my feeds are all fucked up” as I sobbed away. She promptly shot over to the boat with my feeds and came back with a feed. I left and cried for a bit in my goggles. But as I left Jacqueline said “you aren’t even cold!” And she was right! I wasn’t cold. I don’t know why I had a meltdown but I know I can be stronger and I should listen to my own advice which is to give it 20-30 more minutes as these emotions go in cycles. Later in the swim I needed to do that as well and I did not. So at this point, I climbed over the wall and kept on swimming for another 2+ hours which I was pretty proud of. Around the 4 hour mark, I saw Amy and she tried to tell me a joke and I just said “uh huh?” and returned to swimming. Thankfully we laughed about that later. She is a true cheerleader and support of all in the water. I was definitely struggling against my own mind demons and feeling really cold. In hindsight, I know my coldness comes and goes in waves and have to again push myself over the wall. At about 4 hours 15 minutes I was mentally done and asked to get out. They said swim over there. But I didn’t really get back to swimming and just more paddled around for another 10 minutes which then caused me to get colder. Just keep swimming is real and you must just keep swimming or it can be a quick end as once that cold sets in, you are done. I saw another swimmer get out and promptly swam toward that boat to beg and plead to get out.  And I was greeted with a yes I could get out. When we approached Jacqueline’s boat to pick up two additional swimmers, I saw the disappointment in her eyes. I told myself I was happy with 4.5 hours as I had wavered between the 4 hour and 6 hour swim.  I was shivering like crazy by this point and we headed back to shore. On the boat back, Anna-Carin Nordin was helping to keep me warm. Later I learned that she was the first female to complete the Oceans 7! What a thrill to meet her! Next I was greeted by the crew on the beach and quickly taken into the mobile van to warm up. Chrissie took supreme care of me bringing me warm drinks and chocolates and just chatting. I see lots of open water swimming in her future and hope she can visit San Francisco so I can return the hospitality! David also helped to make sure I was ok and I am so thankful for the team that is Infinity. I just can’t say enough about the entire team!!!

Ireland Hitting my wall

The next day is when the disappointment really set in. My body felt quite good and my arms were hardly sore. I knew I did not push myself nearly has hard as I could have. I could have done more, I can do more and I will do more. I am stronger and more capable than I know. I have too many self-doubts. I have always thought I was mentally tough as I pushed through two challenging Ironman events in my prior life as a triathlete. Ironman Canada had a 25% did not start/ did not finish so I know I have mental toughness. However, mental toughness in marathon swimming is a whole other game! These are things that are hard for me to admit. I am incredibly hard on myself and one my amazing housemates asked me earlier in the week why I was so hard on myself.  I pondered this… I think the middle child syndrome is real. At least in my mind, I always needed to do more, be better to get attention. This has evolved into my adult life and why I continue to push myself to do more, be better. While I am still disappointed I did not push through to the 6 hours, I know I can and I know I will. So Infinity, I WILL BE BACK! And I will be READY!


If you enjoyed my blog, please use the link to the right to follow me. You will get an email update each time I post anything new. It’s not that often so don’t worry about being inundated with emails. I would also love to hear from you! How is your plastic free journey going? I hope to have inspired you! Are you an open water swimmer? Did this help?

*disclosure: Some links in this blog are affiliate links, meaning I make a little bit of money but at no additional cost to you. I will earn a commission if you click through the link and make a purchase. This will help me to continue to explore and offer up recommendations to reduce your plastic usage.



Training for Swim Training Camp

I sit here in the San Francisco International Airport to head off to Ireland for a swim camp with Infinity swimming. The camp is located in Carlingford and is 4 days of swimming. I will be joining 6 other amazing women from the South End Rowing Club. The first night we swim in a pitch dark lake that I hope will be around 54 degrees. Saturday we get into the ocean. My wishful thinking was that the ocean would be 53 degrees but I learned this week that it is closer to 50-51 degrees so this camp called “Hit the Wall” will likely make me do just that as the culmination of the weekend is on Monday where you have the option of a 4 hr, 6 hr or 10hr swim. Now I know I can do 4 hrs in 53 degrees. And pretty sure I can do 6 hrs. But 50 degrees is a whole other story. Degrees really do count!

As I prepared for my Irish Swim Camp, I have been ramping up my time in the San Francisco Bay. Last year we had temperatures in May that were in the mid-50’s. This year it has been much warmer with temperatures in the high 50’s. I kept hoping the water temps would drop to acclimate more for Ireland. That was not the case. But training has been solid! Over the past 4 weeks my training plan was as follows:

  • 4 weeks ago
    • 9 hrs of training
    • 29K yards
    • Long Swim 3hrs (Sat- Angel Island Circumnavigation) followed by 2 hrs Sunday
  • 3 weeks ago
    • 10+ hrs of training
    • 32K yards
    • Long Swim 4hrs (Sat), followed by 2hrs (Sunday- 5 Coves of Death at South End Rowing Club)
  • 2 weeks ago- Recovery week due to work travel + shoulders needing a rest from two big weeks.
    • 4 hrs of training
    • 16K yards
    • Long Swim 2.5 hrs
  • Last week:
    • 11+ hrs of training
    • 48K yards (some current assisted)
    • Long Swims 5 hrs (Wed) + 3 hrs (Sat- Golden Gate Bridge Round Trip

So let’s talk about this last epic week of training! On Wednesday, I took a vacation day to do this epic swim expertly planned by Pacific Open Water Swim Co. Bryan plotted out exactly when we would leave and projected times for each leg and we really did nail it. This was intended to be a 6 hour swim from Mile Rock to Bay Bridge and back to Mile Rock.


I was so excited leading up to it knowing I totally could do this swim! We started out with just perfect conditions. The water was like glass and I was in heaven.The weather gods were not exactly working with me or my crew as storm was on its way in. I would argue it is easier in the water than on the water in the boat when it is storming. There was a storm coming in with winds from the south so when I rounded Alcatraz I was greeted with some fun chop. I drank my fair share of the bay and put some serious pressure on my shoulders. I was screaming + cursing in the water as I tried unsuccessfully to get to the Bay Bridge. The Ebb (out going tide) has kicked in and I was swimming in place. At this point, I had been in the water for 3 hrs and I yelled I was done, get me out. I think that drew some snickers on the boat with my pilot, Bryan and my crew, my lucky and amazing partner. So back towards Alcatraz I headed! With me no longer swimming against the wind and the chop, I was feeling much better. We rounded Alcatraz and continued on. I was probably about 20 minutes off the Golden Gate Bridge. My arms were toast and I said, I am done. It was 5 hours into a tough swim and my pilot agreed it was time to get out. There was an incoming freighter so they would have had to pull more or re-position me so it was meant to be. I am definitely going back to complete this swim some day!!!


mile rock May 2019mile rock approaching GGB May 2019Mile rock to city front May 2019

On Saturday I planned a swim from the South End Rowing Club to the Golden Gate Bridge. We are so fortunate to have amazing people to swim with and to kayak for us. I was joined by Zach Margolis for my swim and we had Miguel Melendez as our kayaker. He is a rock star + so thankful to have him to guide us, feed us, protect us and get amazing pictures of us along the way!

I figured out the tides for the swim with us leaving at 6am on the ebb (outgoing tide). It was a touch stronger so we went in and out of the Fort Mason piers and then headed on our way to Golden Gate Bridge. Zach was swimming strong so I was just trying to keep up. Note to self- Only swim with Zach on well rested arms 😉 The swim was just delightful. We had amazing conditions heading out to the Golden Gate Bridge and timed the swim so perfectly that we did get the flood (incoming tide) to assist a little bit on the way home. We ran into the South End Sunriser Swim so Zach joined that and kicked it up a notch further. And we found each other on the beach after this amazing swim with smiles and high fives!


GGB no plasticGGB May 2019 zachGGB May 2019 zach + Erika

With all that training, I think I nailed what is needed to be ready for the distances at Hit the Wall. The cold water… well I am just going to be mentally tough. When I think I need to get out because I am cold, I will stay in for 20 more minutes. I have noticed there are these little mental barriers. Your mind is saying you have to get out, you’re freezing! But if you can push through and stay in, your body says “ok, I guess we are doing this” and then like some miracle you warm up a bit.

I did get some injuries along the way. I definitely increased my time + yardage too fast which took a toll on my my biceps, shoulders + lats. Listening to your body and knowing how to address these aches and pains is critical to getting through your training season. I also listened to others from the club so I incorporated ice, ibuprofen and the most amazing handheld massage machine which allows me to hit my back, shoulders, biceps, you name it. I used this 3 days in a row and I am 95% back to normal. I highly recommend the Purewave Therapy Massager. It is  worth every penny and it is packed in my bags to Ireland!

If you enjoyed my blog, please use the link to the right to follow me. You will get an email update each time I post anything new. It’s not that often so don’t worry about being inundated with emails. I  would also love to hear from you! How is your plastic free journey going? I hope to have inspired you! Are you an open water swimmer? Did this help?

*disclosure: Some links in this blog are affiliate links, meaning I make a little bit of money but at no additional cost to you. I will earn a commission if you click through the link and make a purchase. This will help me to continue to explore and offer up recommendations to reduce your plastic usage.